The Travelers, which Wright and best friend Kevin Church put together in the late mid-1990s, are back together, booking shows and sifting through material for an album on Patuxent Records. “It’s more than being in a good band,” Norman said during a meeting with the band in the living room of his Falls Church, Va., home. “It’s being in a band with people that you like and who will work together.”
Kevin, the son of banjo stalwart Porter Church, was an obvious choice, and the first person Norman approached after Darren Beachley and Legends of the Potomac suddenly disbanded so Beachley could team up with Barry Scott. Kevin and Norman were in the Country Gentlemen together, quitting on the same day in 1991 to form their own band, which in 1996 became The Travelers. Their 1998 release, Ridin’ the Lines (Hay Holler Records) is still sought after for its poignant writing and smooth harmonies.
But that earlier incarnation couldn’t survive a series of departures and inconsistent commitments, so Norman and Kevin moved on. Neither had trouble lining up gigs as sidemen, Norman on the mandolin and Kevin on banjo. But when the Legends dissolved, after one album, Norman was looking for one more shot to reclaim the magic.
Shortly after the first of the year, Norman and Kevin met with guitarist/arranger John Miller and bass player Mike Conner, who toured together as Conner and Miller and as part of Blue Star, an all-star gospel band including Steve Gulley, Jesse Brock and Dale Ann Bradley. All four wanted to see if something clicked. It must have because a week later they were doing a photo shoot and working up arrangements for studio time that had already been booked.
“Within an hour, it was like an old coat. It was just comfortable,” Mike said about the first meeting. They talked and jammed, and Mike remembers not getting home until 5 a.m. The decision for The Travelers to hit the road again was natural.
“When the road is calling you, you have to go. We’ve all seen enough failures to be happy when we see the potential for success. I’m here because of the potential to create some really cool music.”
At the second meeting, which I was invited to attend, Norman made clear that The Travelers were four equal partners, not two best friends and two other musicians. “You’re welcome here as long as you want to be here,” he told John and Mike. “We value your opinion just like we do each other’s.”
Kevin said he enjoyed his years with the Country Gentlemen and with the Gentlemen tribute band, but couldn’t pass up another chance to make music with Norman. “For me, it’s the friendship first, the musicianship second, and being able to play the songs that you like. Everything is working out for the best.”
Here are a couple of audio samples from their upcoming Patuxent CD.
When The Judgment Comes (Rick Lang): [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/judgefinalabrev.mp3]
Born with the Blues (Merle Haggard): [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/born_final_abrev.mp3]